Illinois women’s tennis misses out on tournament

By Thomas Donley

After four days of uncertainty, the Illinois women’s tennis team found out it will not be competing for a national championship. The Illini missed out on the 64-team NCAA tournament field, which was announced Tuesday afternoon, for the second year in a row.

“It’s disappointing not to see our name,” head coach Michelle Dasso said. “I think we’re a good ball club, but we were just too inconsistent this year.”

Illinois entered the Big Ten tournament with the belief that in order to have a legitimate shot at making the NCAA tournament, it would need to win at least two matches. The Illini appeared to be on their way to doing just that as they took a 2-0 lead on Purdue in the quarterfinal match after breezing past Nebraska in the first round. However, the Boilermakers powered back to win four consecutive singles matches, all but ending the Illini’s tournament chances.

Purdue, Ohio State, tournament champion Northwestern and regular-season champion Michigan will represent the Big Ten in the NCAA tournament. Illinois posted a 1-4 record against those teams this spring. The tournament starts May 9 and concludes with the national championship match on May 20.

The Boilermakers will open the tournament against Georgia Tech, while the Buckeyes will take on South Carolina. Michigan will face Fresno State and Northwestern, the No. 15 seed in the tournament, will play host to Miami (Ohio).

The Illini finished the regular season fifth in the Big Ten but fell short of making their second tournament in three years. At 14-10, Illinois finished with a better record than LSU (14-13) and Tennessee (13-11), which both received at-large bids.

The good news for Illinois is that it will return four of its top six players, three of whom are freshmen.

“The only way to describe it is utter disappointment,” Dasso said. “We’re just going to have to work better. We’ll use this as a motivating factor next year.”

Thomas can be reached at [email protected] and @donley_thomas.